Humanitarian Social Innovations is excited to welcome Safe Communities to our network of social entrepreneurs.

As a new year — and decade — begins, Humanitarian Social Innovations is excited to introduce Safe Communities to our network. The group works to prevent and address child sexual abuse (CSA), educate churches and youth-serving organizations about keeping children safe, and provide resources for survivors of abuse to heal.

The statistics on child sexual abuse are jarring. Studies indicate that up to 25 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys may be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and most of the time, the abuser is someone that they know and trust. While institutions like churches and youth groups are supposed to be safe places, oftentimes, they can actually enable abuse.

Safe Communities’ mission is to end child sexual abuse and support survivors through the healing process. 

The organization started out as Samaritan Safe Church in 2011, founded by Linda Crockett, a nationally recognized leader in CSA prevention. It rapidly grew from a small community group in Lancaster, PA, into a movement with multiple partner groups and satellite “hubs” functioning across states and regions. As the group expanded, it also launched the program Safe Places to help youth-serving organizations outside of faith groups tackle child abuse prevention through workshops and staff and volunteer training. 

Now, looking forward into a new decade, the nonprofit is growing its reach even further by partnering with HSI and working toward becoming an independent entity with greater power to end child sexual abuse.

“Since its inception, Safe Church/Safe Places has continued to expand its presence at the forefront of the emerging social justice movement to end child sex abuse,” Crockett said. “We realized that it was time to transition to an independent entity. The demand for our services grows daily and an autonomous structure will allow us to maximize our capacity to respond to this tremendous need in the most efficient way possible.”

A Multifaceted Approach to Ending Abuse

“Sexual violence, particularly at a young age, derails the trajectory of a promising young life from that of one who believes they can do anything to one who believes they can do nothing — and in fact, believes they are worth nothing,” said Lizz Durbin, Creative Director and Program Administrator at Safe Communities. She noted that survivors often struggle emotionally and with unhealthy behaviors later in life as a result of childhood abuse.

The group is passionate about putting a stop to this tragic pattern, and developed a variety of programs and resources to achieve that goal. They work with youth organizations to develop policies and models that keep children safe; offer consultation services; and provide education and workshops that teach institutions, staff, volunteers, parents and children how to prevent abuse. 

“Safe Communities is focused on the institutions that surround children and families — camps, youth programs, schools, churches and other faith groups — and how they can become sites of safety and protection for children, rather than falling into the far-too-common patterns of avoiding the issue, pretending the only risk is strangers, silencing victims, prioritizing the reputation of powerful adults or the institution itself, and other ways that institutions enable abuse,” Durbin said.

Changing Lives

The work of Safe Communities has not only been instrumental in helping churches and communities prevent abuse; it has also opened the door for survivors to tell their stories and begin the process of healing through support groups for survivors and their allies. The groups include Circle of Hope, a group for adult survivors; Resilience Cohort, a monthly gathering for survivors; and Rising Together, for parents of abused children.

“Circle of Hope gave me an opportunity to slowly tell my story — the one I had been told to forget — to a group of survivors who understood the shame, fear, self-destruction and anger that had held me in captivity for years,” one anonymous survivor shared with Safe Communities. “The safety I experienced in the circle allowed me to release both the story and the stress created by holding my suffering in silence. I am very grateful for the way this has changed my life.”

Safe Communities is dedicated to helping more and more survivors heal, but is challenged to procure the funding to run its programs and keep resources free for survivors and youth organizations. With help from donors, the nonprofit hopes to continue to grow and see a world where child sexual abuse no longer exists.

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